Talking football: Latics are still a work in progress

Burton Albion's Abdenasser El Khayati celebrates scoring against Wigan Athletic

Burton Albion's Abdenasser El Khayati celebrates scoring against Wigan Athletic

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“Records are obviously great to get,” admitted Gary Caldwell earlier this week. “But we’re still a long way away from achieving what we want to achieve.”

Those words could hardly have proved more prophetic as Wigan Athletic suffered a blip against Burton Albion in midweek.

First home defeat in the league, first setback in 12 games, first home goal conceded in six.

All impressive sequences that will have to be re-set.

But as Caldwell was already well aware, Latics are still very much a work in progress, still searching for that elusive consistency to match the undoubted quality in the squad.

The Latics chief acknowledged his side’s passing has not been at its best in recent games, where they’ve just about been getting by. And it came back to bite them in a miserable game that was always going to be won by the only goal.

With the home side punching themselves out, it was Burton who delivered the late KO with as classic an example of the counter-attack sucker-punch as you’ll ever see.

I’d even go as far as to say the Brewers were the most impressive opposition side I’ve seen all season.

Sure, Latics were more convincingly beaten at both high-flying Coventry and Gillingham inside the first month of the campaign. But factored against that was Latics playing like a group of players that had literally just been thrown together – which of course they had.

I’m expecting Caldwell’s crew to give a far more accurate account of themselves in the corresponding fixtures at the DW in the second half of the season.

In the meantime, they make the long trip south on Saturday to face a Southend side that has built on the momentum of winning promotion last term and are on the fringe of the play-offs.

Despite dropping to fifth, Latics remain only five points off leaders Coventry.

But to get any nearer, they’ll have to arrest a woeful records against sides in the top half of League One.

With a third of the season gone, Latics have only beaten one of the top 12 – Peterborough – while filling their boots against teams at the other end of the table.

They’ve lost three and drawn two against the other sides occupying play-off places, which boss Caldwell will be desperate to improve upon.

With a fortnight’s ‘break’ from league combat after Saturday’s game, it would be an ideal chance to put that right by giving Phil Brown’s side a right good tanning at Roots Hall.

IT must have been a rare experience for Jussi Jaaskelainen to be fishing the ball out of his net in midweek.

Abdenasser El Khayati’s late winner for Burton was the first home goal Jaaskelainen has conceded since joining Latics last summer, in his sixth game.

In fact, you have to go back all the way to October 27, 2012 for the last goal Jaaskelainen conceded at the DW – during his West Ham days.

The goalscorer?

Spotter’s badge for those of you who knew it was James McArthur!

INCREDIBLY, yesterday marked the 10-year anniversary of the passing of George Best.

I vividly remember being in the office the weekend after his death in 2005, a TV either side of my work station, watching the moving scenes from his funeral service while keeping tabs on Latics losing at Liverpool in the lunchtime kick-off.

“Pele good, Maradona better, George Best” was one of thousands of tributes paid on social media yesterday to a man many believe was the greatest player of all-time.

Of course, it’s always hard to compare players from different generations.

But it’s important to remember Best worked his magic with balls made of concrete, pitches that resembled cabbage patches, against defenders who literally had to commit GBH before referees would even think about blowing their whistle.

My best Best story from yesterday - and one of the few I hadn’t heard before - came courtesy of former Fulham team-mate, and drinking partner, Rodney Marsh.

“Stumbling back to a Norway hotel, Besty says to the night porter: ‘I need a wake-up call for 7:30am please’. Porter replies: ‘It’s 20 to 8 now!’”

RIP George.

ONE of the stories of this or any other week was Brechin goalkeeper Graeme Smith arriving at Stenhousemuir on Saturday - only to discover the game was at home.

Cue a mad 83-mile dash back to Brechin’s Glebe Park, although he wasn’t able to prevent a 2-1 defeat that keeps them bottom of Scottish League One.

Watching the opening half-hour of the Manchester City-Liverpool evening kick-off, it looked as though a few of the City defenders had also gone AWOL.

With none of the usual suspects seemingly wanting to take control of this Premier League title race, it’s Leicester City who are currently setting the pace.

Having tipped the Foxes for relegation over the summer - and I was by no means the only one! - I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see how well the Foxes have gone so far.

Whether they’ll be top after their next six matches - against Manchester United, Swansea, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool and Manchester City - is of course another matter altogether.

BARCELONA’S complete and utter humiliation of Real Madrid on Saturday was one of the most impressive statements of intent in recent years.

And the 4-0 scoreline could easily have been even more emphatic given the visitors’ dominance.

The final whistle had only just gone before some wag had amended the Wikipedia page of the ‘Estadio Santiago Bernabeu’, to its full title of ‘FC Barcelona Training Ground’.

While Cristiano Ronaldo will probably retain his Ballon d’Or award, we could well be watching the greatest frontline ever assembled in world football in Messi, Neymar and Suarez.

The scary thing is Saturday’s Real rout was achieved with Messi only making a late cameo off the bench after injury.

They’ll be some team when they’re firing on all cylinders....